Students launch fundraiser to help classmate's brother
Nov 02, 2012 (La Crosse Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Claire Pahl's friends know all about her older brother. Ask the third-grade students at Summit Elementary School about him, and each has a story about being bossed or chased with Nerf guns.
Now they're banding together to help the boy, diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of cancer.
The students set up a donation table near the school entrance, asking fellow Summit students to give as much as they can, even if it's just a nickel.
They call their drive "Nickels for Nick."
"It's nice and helpful," 9-year-old Claire Pahl said.
Her brother, Nick Pahl, was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma in August.
It started with flu-like symptoms.
Pahl, 12, felt clammy and lethargic for nearly a week, said his mother, Dawn Pahl.
"He never got sick, so even having the flu seemed unusual for him," she said.
When she took her son to urgent care, doctors found he had triple the normal amount of stomach enzymes. When they found cancer a couple days later, they sent the family to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"As any parent would say, it was devastating," Pahl said. "We were numb with the whole thing."
The cancer had progressed to stage four by the time the Logan Middle School seventh-grader reached Mayo. Starting in his abdomen, it quickly spread across his torso, from his shoulders to his thighs.
"His was doubling in size every day," Pahl said.
Nick Pahl underwent months of treatment, including five rounds of chemotherapy and five days in 'round-the-clock intensive care when chemo shut down his kidneys.
Pahl returned home Monday but was back in Rochester on Thursday undergoing tests. He may not be finished with treatment, but he's making progress, Dawn Pahl said.
Meanwhile, his sister and her friends are doing what they can to help.
They made bright green shirts and ordered hundreds of green bracelets -- lime green is the ribbon color for Burkitt lymphoma. They also made posters, visited classrooms and sent letters home to Summit families, asking for support.
"This was all their initiative," said Tabatha Veum, a school social worker. "They pitched the idea to our principal."
Anesleigh Raymer, 8, pushed for the fundraiser because she wanted to help her friend's family.
"It would have been hard for them to pay the bills," Raymer said.
Each day before school starts, Raymer, Claire Pahl and other girls sit at a table, asking students to donate. Any who give at least a nickel get a bracelet.
Today is the last day of the campaign. Money raised by the girls will go to the family.
"There's always so many unexpected costs," Dawn Pahl said.
The fundraiser exemplifies a theme teachers try to instill in Summit students: Be constructive instead of destructive, Veum said.
"We talk a lot about being a bucket filler," Veum said. "It is really special to see them doing this."
Dawn Pahl thinks her son could be ready to start going to school part-time by Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, support from friends and the community are a source of inspiration for the boy trying to beat cancer.
"It makes me speechless," Dawn Pahl said. "It's hard to believe how people have stepped forward."
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